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Bolts Look to Start 2023 Off Right Against Rams


The Chargers have clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2018.

Following a primetime win over the Colts, the Bolts have now won three straight games and will look to extend their streak as they take on the Rams in their regular-season home finale.

Here's a breakdown of news from the Chargers 17th week of the season:

Monday: Chargers clinch playoff spot

For the first time since 2018, the Bolts are heading back to the playoffs.

The team put on another impressive performance on their way to a 20-3 win over the Colts on Monday Night Football.

Just three weeks ago sitting at 6-6, things were very different. Three straight wins later, the Chargers are in the playoffs — but they're not satisfied yet.

"I think it's just the beginning. It's just the beginning," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said after the game. "This is not our final goal. We expected to be at this point. I'm really proud of how this season has gone for our football team and what we've been able to demonstrate in order to make it into the postseason.

"That's probably what I'm most proud of," Staley added. "Not just being in it, but how we made it, what it took for us to get in. But, you know, this is just the beginning for us."

On defense, the Chargers put up another great performance, limiting the Colts to three points, turning them over three times and holding them to 0-for-10 on third-down conversions. Throughout the team's winning streak, the defense has shined and continues to improve as the final stretch of the season continues.

"Just have a unit that's really connected out there, a team that's playing extremely hard, playing extremely disciplined, doing all the things that you need to do to put a dominant effort like that," Staley said. "You know, that's certainly what our expectations are in the run game and the pass game, pass-rush, got to have it situations, third down, fourth down.

"It was a complete performance. It was a dominant performance, and certainly one that we expect," Staley added. "But I'm really proud of the guys because they've come together and made it happen, and our players deserve all the credit."

Things in the NFL change fast, and the Chargers have changed their fortunes in the last month of the season.

With two regular season games remaining until the playoffs, the work is not done quite yet. Quarterback Justin Herbert believes that they haven't played their best football yet and there are things they can tidy up before the playoffs come in two weeks.

"I don't think we played our best football yet," Herbert said. "You know, I think the defense has done an incredible job these past couple of weeks. I think offensively we can do better. We can limit turnovers and that starts with me. We can limit penalties.

"Just being able to convert on third down and things like that, but we're definitely going to be watching film after it one and learn from it," Herbert added."

Tuesday: Approaching the final two games

It was a Victory Tuesday this time around at Hoag Performance Center.

Clinching an AFC Wild Card spot on Sunday, the Chargers could still finish anywhere from the fifth seed to the seventh seed in the conference. To read the full AFC playoff picture, click here.

Although the Chargers already have their ticket to the postseason locked up with two games remaining in the regular season, their approach to those final weeks will remain game by game.

On Tuesday, Staley spoke about how the next two games could shake out, adding that it might change based on circumstances.

"We're going to take that game-by-game here to finish out the regular season," Staley said. "Our plan is to continue to improve as a football team. I think that is the most important thing, that we continue to improve, and the only way you are going to do that is by competing.

"On a case-by-case basis, if there is someone that is not right, certainly, we don't want them out there if it is going to inhibit their ability to play in the postseason and play at a high level," Staley added. "We're just going to take that case-by-case. But our goal is to play really well this week against the Rams and compete at a high level."

As Staley mentioned, the most important thing is improvement from here on out, and they will get a chance to against a Rams team that is coming off of a huge win in which they scored 51 points.

Although it hasn't been an ideal for the them, Staley is very familiar with the coaching staff and its players and knows that they will bring a major challenge come Sunday.

"The thing that stands out to me is just respect — respect for everybody that is in that organization, coach, player, front office," Staley said. "I know the caliber of coaching that goes on at that place. I know the caliber of players that are over there, who we are going to have to compete against."

"There are a lot of people who have won a ton of football games, having been in the Super Bowl, playoff games," Staley later added. "They demand our full attention."

Wednesday: Staley on facing McVay for the first time

A short week coupled with a late arrival made this Wednesday look a little bit different for the Chargers.

The team arrived from Indianapolis in the early hours of Tuesday morning and had to tweak their schedule a bit.

"We got home at 5:30 in the morning — really, really early," Staley said. "I felt like getting our guys back today, with a flush-out workout and recovery session, would get their [body] clock back."

"We'll treat it like a Thursday game, where we have first-, second- and third-down tomorrow, then red area and situations the next day, and then a walk-through on Saturday," Staley added. "I just really felt like our team needed to get itself back after a really late trip."

That means the team did not practice on Wednesday, but they did work out and go through recovery before they ramp up preparations for Week 17 on Thursday.

Sunday will mark the first time the Chargers and Rams will play at SoFi Stadium, the venue they share. It also marks another first-time event, as Staley will face a Rams team he knows really well from the staff to the players.

Before joining the Chargers, Staley was the Rams defensive coordinator in 2020 and worked closely with Rams Head Coach Sean McVay. Staley mentioned that he spent a lot of time with McVay, and philosophical similarities led to them having great success in their one year together.

Staley still keeps in touch with McVay when the season allows and knows Sunday will be great competition.

"I certainly wouldn't be here without him," Staley said. "There's a lifelong friend there.

"At the same time, we're great competitors, even though we're good friends. This game is going to be about competition. I'm excited to take the field on Sunday," Staley added.

And Sunday will be another opportunity for the Chargers defense to continue their momentum.

Over the span of the three game win streak, it's been no secret that the defense continues to improve and impress. One area specifically remains third downs, as they are one of the best teams over the last couple of weeks.

That success has given a big jolt to the whole team and is a product of a lot of different factors that Staley detailed at length.

"I think that our pass rush and our pass coverage are really fitting well together, our coverage disguise," Staley said. "I think that is really what makes good third-down teams. I think that we are rushing at a high level.

"It's not just about sack production. I know that we've had a lot of sack production, which is fantastic, but just rushing the quarterback the right way," Staley added. "Then, making sure that from a coverage standpoint that we're in the right coverage, having the right communication and playing the right technique. I think that we've done a good job of playing together."

Also on Wednesday, Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith released his weekly mailbag, where he answered questions about possible playoff scenarios, rhythm on offense and much more.

Thursday: Bosa returns to practice

Joey Bosa is back on the practice field.

The veteran outside linebacker was designated to return from Injured Reserve on Thursday, opening his 21-day practice window. It is the first time Bosa practiced since his groin injury in Week 3 against the Jaguars.

Bosa spoke to the media following Thursday's practice for the first time since his injury, feeling good about his return.

"I'm feeling really good. Just good to be back out there," Bosa said. "Light practice, had a good couple workouts earlier this week. Yesterday, got with [Chargers outside linebackers coach] Giff [Smith], did some individual stuff.

"Feeling confident, feeling good," Bosa added. "About 15 reps today so easy day to get back into it and felt really good on all of them."

Bosa opened on his recovery process and what led up to this point, detailing how he feels better now than he has in years. With his return looming and the current state of team, he believes that they can improve even more.

"We're in a great place as a team and I'm feeling better than I have in years honestly," Bosa said. "So, it's really good timing right now."

"We're playing really well right now," Bosa later added. "And that's with the lack of some really key players. I think it'll get better as we keep getting healthy."

Bosa had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in two-plus games this year. Whenever his return is, it'll be well received by the defense, as a player of Bosa's caliber joining the already impressive Chargers defensive line can spell trouble for opposing offensive lines.

It also will be able to open up outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who has had a Pro Bowl season while playing without Bosa. The two together could open up a lot more things on the defense.

"Just the energy he's going to bring," said Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill. "You know he's going to be able to get to the quarterback with his pass rush, take some of the chips of Khalil that he's been experiencing all year.

"[We're] able to move different guys around to different spots to try and free up some guys," Hill added. "He opens up a lot of things for a lot of different people on this defense."

Also on Thursday, Senior Writer Eric Smith talked with quarterback Justin Herbert 1-on-1 as young quarterback prepares for his first trip to the postseason. To read to full feature, click here.

Members of the Rams also talked about the Chargers ahead of their Week 17 matchup. Check out what the Rams said about the Bolts.

Check out the best photos of the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center

Friday: Bosa expected to play Sunday

The expectation is that Bosa will see his first game action since Week 3 on Sunday.

During his Friday media availability, Staley said Bosa has progressed well and the plan is for him to be activated from Injured Reserve and play.

"That's the plan, yeah," Staley said.

"He's looked good," Staley later added. "I think he was able to share with you guys a little bit what we've seen in his progression, which is the guy that was getting better and better and we didn't want to designate him to return if we didn't feel like he was capable of going out there and performing."

Staley also added that Bosa will be on snap count, as he will have to work back into football shape having not played in a game in over three months.

"He's got to get his football conditioning just like everybody else," Staley said.

"He's going to go out there and play," Staley later added. "That was our plan. If he's going to play, he's going to play."

The long-awaited return of Bosa is on the horizon, as the team can use the final two games as a way to implement him back into the fold slowly. All week, the team has expressed its desire to continue improving despite having already clinched, and the same applies here.

Bosa's return means not only some added firepower for a defense that has been on fire recently, but some more energy that he brings with him.

"It's just huge to see him back out at practice," Herbert said on Friday. "He brings a different energy to the team. To have him back around, working out, just excited to in the facility."

Safety Derwin James, Jr., who has been in concussion protocol this week, was listed as "OUT" for Sunday, but Staley says he's making his way through the protocol. The only other injury designation for Sunday was fullback Zander Horvath, who was listed as "QUESTIONABLE" with an ankle injury.

Prior to Friday's practice, Smith talked with Jourdan Rodrigue, who covers the Rams for The Athletic, to preview Sunday's game.

Also on Friday, Smith released his Final Thoughts ahead of the regular season home finale at SoFi.

Check out the best photos of the Chargers Saturday practice at Hoag Performance Center

Videos of the Week

Mic'd Up | Morgan Fox

Chargers defensive lineman Morgan Fox was mic'd up during the Week 16 primetime win vs the Indianapolis Colts.

Playmakers | Jamie Erdahl Talks GMFB & Bolts in the Playoffs

The host of NFL Network's Good Morning Football joins Hayley Elwood on the latest edition of Playmakers podcast to discuss her first season on the show, what it's like to prepare for GMFB and more.

Chargers Weekly | Laying Out Playoff Scenarios and Week 17 Preview vs. Rams

Matt "Money" Smith and Chris Hayre recap the Chargers Week 16 playoff-clinching win over the Colts and preview the Week 17 matchup against the Rams.

Community | Chargers Celebrate Holidays by Giving Away New Bikes

The Chargers Impact Fund, in partnership with the Bikes For Kids Foundation and Pechanga, celebrated the holidays by giving away about 150 brand new bikes to second and third-graders at Mayo Elementary School in Compton. Khalil Mack, Cameron Dicker, and others were on hand to surprise the kids.

Tweets of the Week

Bolt Up for 2023!

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